Monday, December 29, 2008

NATO Sits Quietly As Germany / US Defends Israeli Bombardment In Gaza

Germany, US Defend Israeli Raids in Gaza as Protests Mount

Germany and the US defend Israel's Gaza air raids which have killed over 300, saying they are meant to protect the country's civilians even as pro-Gaza protests grow in the Arab world and Europe.

Germany on Monday blamed Hamas for the outbreak of violence in the Gaza Strip and urged the Islamist group which has controlled Gaza since 2007 to stop firing rockets so that Israel's attack on the territory could end.

"It is the legitimate right of Israel to protect its civilian population and to defend its territory," German government spokesman Thomas Steg told a press briefing in Berlin.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had agreed in a telephone conversation that responsibility for the escalation lay "clearly and exclusively with Hamas," Steg said. "Hamas has unilaterally broken the ceasefire agreement."

Merkel also urged Olmert to ensure that steps were taken to avoid civilian casualties and allow urgently needed humanitarian supplies across the border into Gaza, Steg said. He added that the chancellor believed the conflict could only be resolved through a political process at the end of which there was a two-state solution.

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